I don't recognize myself these days.
I look in the mirror and see a strange woman, that slightly resembles the Erin I have always known staring back at me. So many things have changed.
In the last 6 months, being on high steroids I began to notice major hair loss. I've never had very thick hair, but this was way more than just post baby hair loss. Clumps would lie in the bathtub after a shower, my hairbrush was always full and attempting to "do" my hair was getting trickier and trickier. I lost all my bangs in the front, and while keeping my length at the back, all that was left up top was random wispy hair that wouldn't straighten properly or be styled in any way. One day after attempting to look nice for some occasion I sat down on the toilet lid and cried. I hadn't noticed how drastically my hair had changed and it seemed to hit me all at once and I was devastated.
I called my mom and poured out all my feelings and hurt. I knew it was just hair, but it was my hair and it was part of who I am. After that, I didn't want to leave the house. All I could do was pull my hair into a bun and wear a thick headband to cover the front. I decided then that I was going to look into hair pieces and see what my options were. I soon discovered that hair pieces (wigs, toppers, implants etc.) have come a long way and can be quite nice and look very natural, although admittedly quite pricy. My incredibly generous parents volunteered to buy me a wig. A beautiful thick shoulder length blonde wig, styled with long side bangs. I immediately felt like a new woman. I walked out of that shop with a new spring in my step and a smile on my face.
Looking back, I feel embarrassed for being so concerned with something as trivial as hair, but I don't regret wearing my wigs or trying to look the best I could with what I had. I realized that God was trying to teach me something bigger than vanity. I had to learn I was placing so much of my identity in my looks and in what I saw in the mirror, instead of the truth that my identity alone, resides in Him and who He says I am.
With medications that give you a ravenous appetite and additional weight gain, I've put on over 35 pounds. My face is moon-shaped and stomach extremely swollen making me appear 6 months pregnant, and all trace of my somewhat lean and toned body has been replaced by saggy (post surgical) skin, stretch marks, and major fluid retention.
I have to admit that this season is hard and humbling. I never realized how much of my identity was in my appearance. From my thin patchy hair, to my swollen toes, I see a completely different person than a year ago, but God is teaching me that I need to release that to Him and try to let His peace surround it. One day I pray to be off some of these medications and perhaps the side effects will dissipate. However I'm daily asking Jesus to help me see myself as He does. I pray He aligns my heart so that I wouldn't grieve a seemingly "ugly" body, but instead grieve an ugly or unattractive heart. This is what I want to focus on; seeking Jesus more and more to sanctify me and mold me into the woman He wants me to be. To shift my focus from frowning in the mirror to searching my heart for ugliness that only He can transform, and allowing Him to do it. God knows my heart just as he knows how many hairs I have left on my head. He sees what needs to be changed, shaped and uprooted, but He also sees my hurts, questions and grief and He loves me through it all. I am beautiful because I am His. I am made in His image and while the blessing of society's definition of beauty may not be mine, the blessing of salvation and relationship with Jesus is all I could ever need.
Every day I have to pause and stop the negative thoughts I have about my body. I need to remember the truth about who I am and how blessed I am to have the healthcare I require and a body that can still do so much, though limited. I need to remember that my heart and love for Jesus is what I truly want to see when I look in the mirror.
And that is true beauty.
Author - Erin
Follower of Jesus, on a journey to glorify God and to advance His Kingdom while battling Chronic Illness in the everyday life. Diagnoses include Lupus, CVID, POTS, IBS, Hemiplegic Migraines and other Autoimmune conditions.